The Israeli army carried out a series of deadly strikes from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip on Friday, while increasing its pressure on Rafah, where its soldiers are operating in the center of the city against Palestinian fighters of the Hamas movement.

In the early hours of the day, witnesses reported Israeli strikes near Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, the new epicenter of the war that has pitted Israel against Hamas for almost eight months, as well as in Nusseirat, in the center of the narrow strip of land.

The army said its “commandos operating in the center of Rafah” had discovered Hamas “rocket launchers”, “tunnels” and “weapons”, and “destroyed an arms warehouse in the area”. .

It also announced the death of two soldiers in Gaza, bringing to 292 the toll of its soldiers killed since the entry of Israeli troops into the Palestinian territory at the end of October.

In the center of the coastal strip, nighttime strikes on two separate sites left 11 dead, according to medical sources in Deir al-Balah and in the Nousseirat camp.

The army claimed for its part to have “eliminated several terrorists who were operating near” its troops in this area.

Despite the wave of international indignation raised by the bombing on Sunday of a camp for displaced people in Rafah, which left dozens dead, the army continued its ground offensive in this overpopulated city, launched on May 7 with the objective declared to eliminate the last battalions of Hamas.

In a remote interview with French channel LCI, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described accusations that Israel is deliberately targeting or starving civilians in Gaza as “anti-Semitic slander.”

He also said that the number of civilian casualties relative to Palestinian combatant casualties represented “the lowest rate we have seen in an urban war.”

– Humanitarian crisis –
The ground deployment in Rafah allowed Israel to take control of the “Philadelphia Corridor”, a 14 kilometer buffer zone bordering the Egyptian border in the south of the Gaza Strip.

“The Philadelphia corridor served as an oxygen pipe for Hamas, through which it regularly transported weapons to the Gaza Strip,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

But the Egypt of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who claimed to have destroyed numerous Hamas tunnels when he came to power a decade ago, denied the existence of such tunnels under the border, accusing Israel of seeking to justify its offensive in Rafah.

Cairo and Israel also blame each other for blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid through the Rafah border post, the only crossing point between the Palestinian territory and Egypt, closed since the Israeli army took over. took control of the Palestinian side in early May.

According to the Axios website, the United States is planning a meeting next week in Cairo with American, Egyptian and Israeli officials to discuss the reopening of the Rafah crossing and a plan to secure the border between Egypt and the south. from the Gaza Strip.

The Rafah crossing point is crucial for the entry of humanitarian aid, which the population of the Gaza Strip desperately needs.

The UN regularly warns of the risk of famine in the besieged Palestinian territory, where aid is trickling in, particularly via the Israeli Erez crossing.

“It has been 24 days since the Israeli occupation took control of the Rafah crossing point and closed the Kerem Shalom crossing, which worsened the humanitarian crisis by preventing 22,000 wounded and sick people from leaving Gaza for treatment, and in preventing aid from entering,” the Gaza government media office lamented on Friday.

– “Not negotiable” –
At a time when the war has no respite, the center-right Israeli party of Benny Gantz, a member of Mr. Netanyahu's war cabinet after having faced him in numerous elections, tabled a bill on Thursday aimed at dissolving Parliament and organizing early elections.

Such a scenario would be “a capitulation to international pressure and a fatal blow to efforts to free our hostages,” responded Likud, the right-wing party of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack in Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to a count carried out by AFP based on the latest official data available. Of the 252 people taken as hostages during the attack, 121 are still being held in Gaza, of whom 37 have died, according to the army.

In retaliation, Israel vowed to wipe out the movement, which it considers a terrorist organization, just like the United States and the European Union. Its all-out offensive has so far left 36,224 dead in the Gaza Strip, mainly civilians, according to the Hamas administration's Ministry of Health.

While indirect negotiations for a ceasefire are at a standstill, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that “the resistance” had “informed the mediators once again that its demands are not negotiable “.

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